Archive for January, 2008

Touchdown in Chaotic, Exotic Nepal

No one taking a daytime flight into Nepal should miss the jaw-dropping sight of the Himalayas along the northern horizon. In the Bangkok Airport my daughter and I requested window seats on the right side of the plane in hopes of seeing the massive peaks.

TIP: Arrive at the airport early to snag a window seat. Pre-assigned seats are not given before the day of departure for many short flights in Asia.

JC, my 19-year-old daughter, and I flew over the flat, checkered plains of the lowland Teri area, then over the ochre-red farmlands that melted into the plunging flanks of the first mountain range, sliced by deep gorges of turbulent Himalayan rivers. In the distance the snow-capped Himalayas soared to unbelievable heights. As we approached Kathmandu Valley tiny terraced fields blazing with yellow mustard ringed the steep hills. And nowhere did we see roads!!!

For me, that’s part of Nepal’s charm; it is largely without roads. Access to the interior – its villages and valleys, its mountains and hills – is by ancient foot trails on old trade routes, filled with villagers going about their daily life. Kathmandu is another scenario – crowded roads, twisted lanes, chaos, traffic jams, and choking pollution. And we did suffer from the air pollution in Kathmandu.

TIP: To soothe your dry, irritated eyes, always pack a small bottle of liquid tears or saline solution in your carry-on bag. The dry air during long plane flights as well as the smoky pollution in Asian cities is tough on your eyes. Lemon drops or hard candies soothe irritated throats.

Why would we go to the Himalayas in January when it’s cold and it’s not trekking season? (March-April and October-December are the best months for hiking). But the purpose of our trip wasn’t long hikes. We came to Nepal to visit a friend, and learn about her work with impoverished Nepalese children. We planned to visit children’s homes and a nutritional center and getting to know the kids personally in addition to seeing the sights around the Kathmandu Valley. And we hoped to take a short trip to the rim of the valley to see sunrise over the mountains and trek for two days.

Since my first trip to Nepal in 1983, when I spent 5 months trekking the most popular trails in the Everest, Annapurna and Langtang areas, I have been lucky enough to returned to Nepal 7 times. As the wheels of the Thai airplane touched down at the Kathmandu Airport, my arms were tingling with excitement and my heart was pacing. I wanted to squeal with excitement but I contained my enthusiasm to avoid embarrassing my teenage daughter. My dream was coming true — to return to Nepal with one of my daughters. I hoped she would love Nepal as much as I love this tiny Himalayan Kingdom. She has read my stories about meeting my husband (her dad) at the Kathmandu Guest House, climbing Island Peak (20,000’ in the Everest Area), and engaging with the open-hearted warmth of the people. During her childhood several Sherpa friends have stayed with us in California.

Welcome to Nepal! The electricity in the Arrival Hall of the airport was off for a few hours (every neighborhood in the city has fixed times, several days each week, when the power is turned off). As we waited for our luggage JC tracked down the unheated ladies restroom, but decided to pass, since it was pitch black and less than inviting.

TIP: Always use the airplane bathroom before landing and stuff some tissues in your pocket for the next toilet break. You never know what lies ahead.

As we descended from the cold, gloomy terminal, we caught a glimpse of our white-haired friend Olga, bundled in a puffy indigo-blue parka waving to us. Olga, who has been a girlfriend for many years, was the inspiration for our trip halfway across the globe. After retirement from the legal profession working for the State Supreme Court, Olga fell in love with the children of Nepal and founded NYOF (Nepal Youth Opportunity Foundation, www.nyof.org ), a non-profit to help educate, feed, house and liberate Nepalese children. My next blog entry will tell more about her efforts to free girls from bondage and tales of our experiences in Kathmandu and beyond.

Oprah Show – Girlfriend Getaways with Marybeth

Did you miss me on Oprah? Let’s talk about girlfriend getaways on this blog.

Cheers, Marybeth 

 

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Packing Panic


December 29, 2007

 

Packing Panic

 

Three days until departure for Bangkok and Kathmandu and we’re going into “Packing Panic Mode.” I’ve made a list and I’m checking it twice. Here are small things on my list that I always pack for an international trip:

 

    * Silicon ear plugs

    * An eye shield

    * Lots of zip lock bags, all sizes

    * A rubber door stopper for added security in hotel rooms.

    * A large safety pin or a clothespin to fully close the hotel drapes.

    * A washcloth because most hotels do not provide them.

    * A bottle opener and corkscrew. Although I can find these in almost all countries, it’s nice to have one ready for picnics or in my hotel room for a drink before dinner.

    * Individually wrapped chocolates, unless I’m going somewhere really warm. Chocolate or candy is a nice gift to offer to a desk clerk or someone who has been especially kind or helpful. If I am going to be hosted by a family, I always take a gift box of fancy chocolates.

    * Photos of my family, pets, garden, holiday celebrations and home.

    * Doubles of any item I “really” can’t live without — like prescription glasses or sunglasses, and a copy of my passport, driver’s license, fingernail files, Chap Stick, and money. 

 

The temperature on airplanes and aboard buses can vary from tropical heat to an Arctic chill. You can’t count on finding airline blankets on many flights so I’ll dress in layers for the long plane trip. I’ll also pack a sweater and socks in my carry-on bag.

 

Good Reading Material. I re-read the story of Anna Leonowens: The English Governess at the Siamese Court that inspired the musical The King and I, starring Yul Brynner. The king who she tutored had 600 wives and 85 children and the members of the British Colony were horrified that she accepting the teaching position to the royal family, because they feared she would end up in the royal harem. Within days we’ll sail along the Chao Phraya River and visit temples and palaces and wonder about the British widow’s life over a century ago (1862) in the country then know as Siam.

 

Nepal or Bust in 2008

The Christmas gifts are opened and everyone’s happy, so it’s time to pack for the next trip. As you — my traveling friends know — my favorite gift is a boarding pass! On January 1st, my 19-year-old daughter (JC) and I leave via Thai Airways for Bangkok, where we’ll spend 2 days then fly to Kathmandu. Travel along with us on this blog.

 

What are we doing in Nepal in January? I’ll be doing research for my upcoming book: Best Girlfriend Getaways Worldwide, and JC will do anti-trafficking research with Nepalese NGO’s.

 

Our trip will be a true “girlfriend getaway” because our neighbor Mary is joining us and we’re staying with another girlfriend who lives half the year in Kathmandu, Olga Murray, the founder of Nepal Youth Opportunity Foundation http://www.nyof.org.

 

Packing countdown. What luggage shall we take? We’ll check our roller bags, (I usually travel with one carry-aboard suitcase with wheels) but this trip I’m taking toys and basketballs for the boys and girls at the Nepalese children’s homes we’ll be visiting. And we’ll need extra room to carry home our shopping treasures from the bazaars of Kathmandu.

 

At my home, packing begins a week in advance. I put lots of clothes on the floor next to my suitcase and begin adding and deleting. Since we’ll spend a few days trekking in the hill country, we’re packing walking shoes, moisture-absorbing socks, layers of warm clothes and a small backpack.

 

Next posting I’ll tell you what “I never leave home without” and as the departure day gets closer I’ll share my “long-flight” survival kit with you.

 

Please share your best packing tips with me too.

Cheers, Marybeth

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About Marybeth Bond

Marybeth Bond is the nation’s preeminent expert on women travel. She is the award-winning
author-editor of 11 books.

Marybeth has hiked, cycled, climbed, dived and kayaked her way through more than seventy countries around the world.

She was a featured guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Marybeth has appeared on CBS News, CNN, ABC, NBC, National Public Radio and National Geographic Weekend.